Tour Guide

Good Things

Inexpensive transportation
Nice beaches, Haeundae nightlife
Safe; helpful people
Interesting mountains, temples
Bad Things

Language barrier
Seedy Texas street and train station area
Water usually too cold for swimming
Any type of food you like, as long as it’s Korean

Busan, South Korea, is a city of about three million located in the southeast corner of the peninsula. There’s a lot of shipping industry here, as the city is on the coast and isn’t far from Japan. The city has temperate climate, although the summers are humid and rainy. There’s some nice beaches here, as well as several Buddhist temples to see, along with some war memorials and museums.
Generally, it isn’t hard to get by here. There aren’t many foreigners in Busan, so the locals are less jaded about them than Seoul residents are, and the city is generally laid-back in comparison to rushed Seoul. On the downside, expect to see and hear much less English. There’s a growing amount of foreign groceries but in restaurants you’ll be lucky to find pizza and hamburgers; expect to eat Korean food. There are worse fates: the raw fish and seafood are great.
The buses are poorly marked and can be crowded, but they’re cheap. The subway is equally inexpensive, but it’s easy to use and a good way to get around. Driving and bicycling here is for the very aggressive or suicidal, so make use of these options or the taxis, which are everywhere. Crime and theft is comparatively rare here; unless you do something reckless or antagonize people you will be fine.

Things to See in or Near Busan

1. Beomosa

Where is it: The Northern Tip of Busan

How to get there: Take the subway straight north to Beomosa station, and then take a bus up the long hill to the temple gates.

What to see: It’s an ancient temple grounds, and you can see some old architecture and art, though at times it feels more like a theme park than an actual, functioning temple. There’s a long path leading from the temple grounds up to Geumjeong.

2. Dadaepo Beach

Where is it: Southwest Busan

How to get there: It’s a pain in the butt to get to. You can take a slow direct bus from Nampo-Dong, or the better route is to take the subway to its last station, Simpyeong, and then take a local bus or taxi to the beach.

What to see: It’s a great beach, long, wide, quiet, and with a great view. If you care less about manicured sand and people watching and just want a natural, more beachy beach, head here.

3. Democracy Monument

Where is it: Central-North Busan

How to get there: Take a bus to Democracy park from Nampo-Dong.

What to see: It’s not a must-see, but if you’re in the area there’s a big park to walk around and people watch, or the huge modern-art monument itself, which is enormous.

4. Gamcheon Village

Where is it: Central Busan

How to get there: Take the subway to Toseong station, just west of Nampo-Dong.

What to see: It’s a bit of a climb or taxi ride up to the top, but this is a beautiful gem of brightly painted houses with installation art. Take some time to wander through the narrow walking paths between buildings. Not really for those nervous around heights.

5. Geumjeong Fortress

Where is it: North Busan

How to get there: Take the subway almost to the northern end, one of the stops before Beomosa.

What to see: It takes a few hours, but it’s a nice hike through one of Korea’s military fortresses against Japan and other ancient invaders, or just to see some trees and clean air. The scenic path leads down into Beomosa temple.

6. Gwanganli Beach

Where is it: Southeast Busan

How to get there: Take a subway to Somyeon, and then head east and get off at Gwangan. The beach is a short walk downhill.

What to see: There’s a pretty view of the new bridge at night when it’s lit up. Otherwise it’s a pleasant albeit narrow beach, as clean and touristy as Haeundae but without the crowds.

7. Haeundae Beach

Where is it: East Busan

How to get there: Take a subway to Somyeon, and then go east to Haeundae station, almost at the end of the line. The beach is also a short walk downhill.

What to see: If you only go to one place in Busan, go here or Nampo-Dong. This is where the cool people go, and the foreigners. It’s a place to see and be seen, and to drink at one of the many bars and pubs. The beach is huge, clean, fun, and has lots of amenities, but the downside is that it’s crammed in summertime. The area streets are full of cheap hotels and the nightlife is bustling and neon-filled.

8. Jagalchi Market

Where is it: a Few Blocks South of Nampo-Dong

How to get there: Walk there or take the subway to Jagalchi, just next to Nampo-Dong.

What to see: There’s some strange seafood there, but it is a good place to buy or eat a fish dinner or just to take in the seaport atmosphere.

9. Nampo-Dong

Where is it: Central-South Busan

How to get there: Just take the subway to Nampo-Dong.

What to see: Nampo-Dong is great for seeing some local culture and for the many markets for clothing, electronics, and other goods. There’s also the giant Lotte department store, a narrow and very walkable main road, and innumerable cafes. It’s my favorite part of Busan.

10. Songdo Beach

Where is it: South Busan

How to get there: Take a bus marked Songdo from Nampo-Dong. The subway doesn’t go there.

What to see: You can watch the fishermen, or take in the view. It’s not a big beach but it’s recently been cleaned up and it looks spiffy.

11. Songjeong Beach

Where is it: Eastern Busan

How to get there: Take a direct bus from Busan Station, or take the subway to Haeundae and then a local bus. It takes a while to get there.

What to see: It’s not the end of the world if you miss this beach, but it is a pleasant and more natural-looking alternative to Haeundae. Plus, there’s a scenic temple nearby (Youngungsa).

12. Taejongdae

Where is it: South Busan (Yeong-do Island)

How to get there: Take a bus marked Taejongdae from Nampo-Dong.

What to see: If you want to walk around some beautiful, windswept cliffs, give this park a try. There’s some nice walkways circling Yeongdo and gorgeous views, and a big rocky, rugged beach. Tucked into the park is a really pretty little temple with some Buddhist art. There are many food stalls but they tend to be hardcore seafood (which is fine if that’s what you like).

13. Yongdusan Park

Where is it: Central-South Busan (Nampo-Dong)

How to get there: Walk up the street in Nampo-Dong until you see the big green escalators, and just keep going up.

What to see: It’s a nice park to see birds and people and the sculptures. There’s an observation deck of the city and a CN-Tower-type elevator taking you to the top where there’s a beautiful view of the whole city.

14. Yonggungsa

Where is it: On the eastern tip of Busan

How to get there: From Seongjeong, take a local bus or taxi, or walk north for about half an hour.

What to see: This Buddhist temple seems so commercial that it’s like "Buddhaland," but it does have a very attractive ambience up there in the mountains, with nice views of the temple buildings on the edge of the ocean. For Buddha’s birthday in May it’s covered with lantern balloons and candles.